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Hearing of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs - "Transatlantic Security in the 21st Century: Do New Threats Require New Approaches?"


Location: Unknown

For over four decades after the Second World War, the United States and Europe were focused on confronting the threat posed by the Soviet Union. That threat disappeared with the end of the Cold War, but it was replaced with a much wider, more complex array of security challenges, many of which emanate from outside the Euro-Atlantic region.

Do we have the right tools, institutions and approaches to deal with these new threats? That's the subject of our hearing today.

In addition to the potential instability in southeastern Europe, we are confronting the ever-growing likelihood of a nuclear-armed Iran, the menace of al-Qaeda that continues to spread around the world, a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

We also need to determine how to deal collectively with concerns such as energy security, sea piracy, and climate change.

The existing transatlantic and European institutions -- such as NATO, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE, and the European Union -- have done a remarkable job building peace and prosperity in the Euro-Atlantic zone for many decades.

But they are now re-evaluating their roles and capabilities to ensure that they can confront the challenges of the 21st Century as effectively as possible.

NATO has been an extraordinarily successful military alliance for the past 60 years, but the purpose for which it was created no longer exists. Since the Cold War's end, it has transformed to address new threats -- but as demonstrated by the current difficulty in obtaining sufficient troop levels in Afghanistan, many Alliance members question the desirability of engaging in out-of-area missions. Other allies question whether NATO should -- and indeed is structured to -- take on issues such as energy security.

As NATO reviews its Strategic Concept, what should be its mission for the foreseeable future, and what changes, if any, need to be made to the structure of the Alliance?

The OSCE is the Euro-Atlantic organization with the most comprehensive membership, comprising 56 countries, all with equal standing. But Russia has argued that rather than fulfilling its goal of a continent-wide security organization, the OSCE has focused mostly on human rights and so-called "soft" security concerns. Thus, Russia's leadership has reiterated its call to strengthen and expand the OSCE's responsibilities.

Following its meeting in Corfu last June, the OSCE set up a process to consider ways to increase security from Vancouver to Vladivostok. Can and should the OSCE become the pre-eminent security organization in the transatlantic region and do more to strengthen its political-military and economic-environmental dimensions, in addition to its human dimension?

And finally, the European Union has evolved from its initial function of preserving peace between France and Germany to developing a single economic union and seeking a more unified approach to foreign policy among its 27 members. The U.S. has often been critical of the EU for a lack of coherence in its foreign policy decision-making and its comparatively low defense spending. The recent ratification of the Lisbon Treaty is expected to herald a more united common security and defense policy -- maybe.

The EU is effectively handling humanitarian and training responsibilities in Afghanistan, and it has conducted peacekeeping missions in Chad, the Congo and the Balkans. But is the EU adequately structured and resourced to address the new threats? And do we want it to do more?

While these three institutions are studying these issues internally and academic commentators -- including our witnesses -- have begun to identify the questions, there have been few answers about the next steps. Some people talk about strengthening the existing institutions to address the new threats, but they do not say how, or whether that is all that is necessary. Others contend that we need to fundamentally rethink and restructure how the transatlantic community addresses these new threats.

This debate has also been fueled by the re-emergence of Russia as a major power. The Euro-Atlantic community learned the hard way in August 2008 that none of its institutions was sufficient to prevent the conflict between Russia and Georgia.

Russian President Medvedev has proposed a new treaty to rectify what he perceives as the failure of existing structures to create a unified security sphere in Europe. His treaty is centered on the concept of indivisible security: that is, that one country cannot guarantee its security at the expense of another's. Some in the West reject this proposal, arguing that it is designed to undermine and weaken NATO. Others believe it has generated an important dialogue about the existing institutional framework.

How should the transatlantic community respond to Russia's proposal? Russia is a vital actor on issues such as Iran and Afghanistan, non-proliferation and counterterrorism. While a new treaty may not be necessary, do we now have an historic opportunity to put the Cold War behind us once and for all and forge a strong partnership to face the new threats together? Is it time to reconsider the prospect of Russia joining NATO?

The issues that will be discussed during this hearing are vital to the security of all of our countries. I am delighted that we have such an extraordinary and distinguished panel of experts with us today to help us consider these issues from the American, European, and Russian perspectives, and we look forward to their testimony.

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